Last week I had a brief email exchange with a former high school classmate, with whom I had not communicated since the day we graduated from high school almost exactly 33 years ago. We emailed about a business matter, but we each threw in a few personal tidbits as well — families, jobs, and where the past three decades have taken us. I was struck by how effortless the conversation was: how quickly I remembered this person’s conversational style and sense of humor, how comfortably he shared details about his life, and how easily we slipped right back into the cadence of our teen years. We hadn’t known each other well in high school, but we reconnected as if we were bound by a common thread.
I’ve been thinking about our Liberty Bell High School class of 2020 lately, feeling sympathy for their loss of what should be the glorious spring of their senior year, enjoying the last chapter of their high school lives before embarking on the path of adulthood. I had thought I remembered my own senior spring well, but when I search my mind for specific memories I come up not with a series of escapades and adventures, but instead a general feeling of nostalgia about a time and a place and, most importantly, about the community of peers with whom I shared the experience.
Class of 2020, you’re missing the final third of your senior year. You’re missing your senior prom, your spring musical, your spring sports, your senior trip. You’re missing your last months of working with your favorite teachers, coaches and mentors. You’re missing the traditional versions of Baccalaureate, Awards Night, and commencement, in a gym packed with friends and family and others who have watched you grow up.
You’re missing all of these events, and you’re also missing the last three months of being with your peers, some of whom you’ve known your whole life. These are the people who you’ve played and fought with, laughed and cried with, accomplished great things with, landed in big trouble with. You share a history, even if you don’t end up sharing a future. It’s a micro-community that exits only for the few dozen of you, laced together by your collective experience.
You’ll go through your life pulling up and putting down roots in different places, finding and creating micro-communities for yourselves the way we do in adulthood. The micro-community of your Liberty Bell graduating class won’t stay intact, physically, but you may be surprised to discover many years from now is that it endures, transcending neglect and distance, a tapestry woven of common threads that even a pandemic won’t unravel.